Last year, right after Christmas, I picked up a book, marked down in price, titled “Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays,” by Elaine St. James. As far as I know it is not a religious book, but it is something that everyone should read because, as church people know, the hustle and bustle the holidays bring is no different for us than anyone who does not attend church regularly.

Last year, right after Christmas, I picked up a book, marked down in price, titled “Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays,” by Elaine St. James. As far as I know it is not a religious book, but it is something that everyone should read because, as church people know, the hustle and bustle the holidays bring is no different for us than anyone who does not attend church regularly.

One of the first suggestions St. James asked her readers to do was to reflect on what they used to enjoy about the holiday. I thought this was a good exercise so I took time to think about it.

The interesting thing was that all of my enjoyable reflections centered around family and friends.

There were the nights before Christmas when my cousin and I huddled under the covers listening for Santa and his reindeer to land on the roof. My cousin claimed to have heard this once. I never did. However, I did hear a lot of rustling and stifled laughter coming from the living room as our parents got everything ready for the big morning.

There were the long ago Christmas Eves spent with family, when we ate in a restaurant, went to church for the annual pageant and then, at midnight, after unwrapping some gifts, sang carols while another cousin accompanied us on the piano.

There was that first Christmas away from family when as a newlywed couple, my first husband and I had the best time ever opening gifts that had been a struggle to buy. Of course, my parents vowed never to spend another Christmas apart from us and that was good, but that first year sure was special.

There were three Christmas mornings on which three separate children experienced the joy of unwrapping gifts for the first time. While the little one didn’t know what was going on, we grownups and the older children sure had a good time laughing together.

And then there were the last four Christmases spending time getting to know a new family and learning to come together.

Reflecting on these simple, enjoyable times make the holiday truly wonderful. It’s not the presents; it’s not all the hustle and bustle. It’s about enjoying the season together. And, if you think about it, that’s all Mary and Joseph had on the very first Christmas – each other, and the brand new package literally sent from heaven. It probably was not easy for them, but they were together, warm and cozy in that stable, listening to the shepherds speak about singing angels. I’m sure that is a memory that lived in their minds for years to come.

This Christmas season, before the rush of the big week begins, take some time to think about what you enjoy about the holiday and thank God for it. Gratefulness will bring you great comfort and joy.

Merry Christmas, everyone.